Edmore Mufema's cruel fate

HARARE – He says his distinctive goal celebration — arms widespread and mimicking the journey of an eagle in flight — was because of his sharp alertness, just like the famous bird, a fox-in-the-box striker with the speed of thought and action to put away the slightest of chances.

At the peak of his powers, Edmore Mufema was the archetypical football number nine, an old-fashioned centre forward with a style that epitomised a player whose job was to score goals — a goal-mouth predator who hung around the box sniffing out chances, and pounced on them.

He was not blessed with the delicate skills of a playmaker or winger, he played in attack and he scored goals, plenty of them.

Once one of the country’s most feared strikers, Mufema’s career was cruelly shattered three years ago, at the age of 31, following a horrific injury suffered while playing in Botswana for top-flight side Jwaneng Comets.

The club, he says, made him play with the aid of painkillers, but after the match, late into the night in a lonely bed, the pain would take its toll and deprive him of sleep.

“I landed awkwardly while jumping for a high ball,” Mufema tells the Daily News.

“The moment I landed, I was in so much pain. I knew it was bad immediately.”

Having rallied from behind in 2005 to edge out Chapungu’s Phillip Marufu for the Zimbabwean league golden boot award on 17 goals, Mufema left Motor Action the following year to join Botswana giants Gaborone United, then under the stewardship of fellow countryman Luke Masomere.

His first spell wasn’t fruitful, and in 2008 and 2009 he returned home to re-join Eric Rosen’s Motor Action in Zimbabwe.

There he rediscovered his scoring touch, and in 2010 he was lured back to Gaborone United, who were chasing the league title with about 10 games to go in the season.

“I played five games and scored three goals, and we won the league title, the first and only title in my career,” he says.

Money issues would later rock the club, with players and coaches going for months without pay, leading to a revolt that resulted in Mufema being loaned out to Jwaneng Comets in 2012.

“Initially, I felt welcome because James Takavada was the coach and another Zimbabwean, Nicholas Gora, also played for them,” he says.

“But they also didn’t pay, so I didn’t finish the season. I was under the impression that they were sponsored by the mine where the club was based, only to find out that it was just a community club. The coach wasn’t also being paid. I only played for three months, and the club blocked a potential move to a South African second division club that wanted to sign me.”

And then the cruel blow.

While playing in a league game for Jwaneng, Mufema sustained the knee injury that has changed his life forever.

“The club refused to foot my medical bills, they gave me an anti-inflammatory drug called diclofenac, so that I could play. I felt used, I felt like a slave. If you take diclofenac you could play without feeling the pain, but you would feel it later,” he says.

“That’s when I realised I was only aggravating the injury. Sometimes the knee would swell, and fluids needed to be drained. Neither Jwaneng, nor the parent club Gaborone, would do that for me.”

But Mufema has a real stubborn streak in him, and in 2012 he joined Flamengo Santos on a permanent deal.

Money issues returned to haunt him again, and he never played a single competitive game for the club.

“I played a few pre-season games, and when the season was about to start, I asked for my sign-on fees. They said they didn’t have any money. I wanted the money for my upkeep. I needed to pay rentals and buy food. They didn’t give me a cent.

“The team then started having ownership squabbles. I went to the BFA (Botswana Football Association) appealing for clearance to be released. They refused. I returned home intending to approach Zifa to help me recover my sign-on fees and salaries.”

Discarded and unwanted, Mufema returned home in 2012 and briefly joined second-tier club Ngezi Platinum, coached by former Blackpool defender Clifton Kadurira, for pre-season training.

“I trained with them but pre-season inomhanywa zvakaipa, ndakabva ndadenha gumbo (pre-season training is hectic, so I put pressure on the leg). Raizozvimba kana ndazorora (the leg would swell when resting).

“I went to see a doctor to have the fluid drained. I did an X-ray to check for cracked bones coz gumbo racho raitorira kana ndichimhanya (the leg would produce sounds when running). But surprisingly, there were no broken bones. I trained for two more weeks, but I just had to give up in the end. I couldn’t do it anymore. It hurt like hell.”

He has not kicked a ball since 2012, earning a living by working as a sales manager in a family friend’s business venture.

“It’s over for me football-wise,” he says.

“Everywhere I go, I meet people who say ‘go for coaching, teach these strikers of today the technique of scoring goals. Strikers are not scoring goals these days’. But out of frustration, I haven’t been able to do that.”

Mufema feels the dearth of prolific strikers in the country is testimony that players in the local game shun hard work.

“What I see is the lack of extra training,” he says.

“Strikers and goalkeepers play in specialised positions. You must not wait for the coach to train you. You have to teach yourselves the basics, away from the team training ground. The tactical skills of our strikers is lacking. Sometimes guys chose to go for power when they can simply choose to place the ball.

“That’s why you see midfielders winning the golden boot ahead of strikers. Of the current crop of Zimbabwean strikers, I rate Knowledge Musona highly, he is the only one with a killer instinct. And Nyasha Mushekwi as well. Locally, of the guys playing here, who can I choose…(pauses)…you see, I can’t even think of anyone! JB (Njabulo Ncube) is from my era, but he is to me better than a lot of the current younger strikers. There is a big problem.”

Mufema is the first to admit that his goals did not need to be pretty.

A simple tap from inside the six-yard box or pouncing on mistakes by defenders or goalkeepers in the areas often did the trick.

“My secret was natural instinct, it was an inborn thing,” he smiles.

“I knew how to position myself. Sometimes ndaingosangana nebhora kana kungorohwa naro (the ball would just meet me).  I was once hit by the ball at Gwanzura and it went in. You need to be alert and fast, like an eagle. I was an eagle whenever I was in the box. And you also need a bit of luck. Whenever I was in the box I felt I would score.”

Mufema’s career has also been blighted by controversy.

As much as Dynamos fans fondly remember that deadly striker who formed a lethal partnership with the great Agent Sawu in the 2003-04 season, they also remember him as the villain who cost them the league title that season.

That was probably the turnaround of things for Mufema.

The Mbare-born star had been sold to Dynamos by Motor Action, but the record champions were reportedly obliged to pay a “training and development fee for the player” at some stage, resulting in a drawn-out legal battle after DeMbare ill-advisedly used the under-dispute player in a game against Lancashire Steel.

They were docked three points, and with that the title went to Amazulu.

“It totally destroyed me,” he says.

“That would have been my only league title in Zimbabwe. Here it was just second place finish, or the golden boot. I felt it was a harsh judgment. They banned me for a year, in 2004, why did they punish the club too? They should have punished me alone, not both.”

While serving the ban, Mufema claims Dynamos remained loyal, and against a ruling which forbid him from receiving any kind of benefits from football, the Glamour Boys continued to pay him just like the other players.

Away from the controversy, Mufema looks back at his time with Dynamos with fond memories, especially the partnership with Sawu and the astute coaching of the late Zambian Keegan Mumba.

“I was already in double figures after just 10 games,” he says.

“Me and Agent were awesome. He helped me a lot. When he arrived, he said to me ‘I know you have pace and like to run at defenders. But just stay, hang around the box, I will do the work for you and find you’. He was powerful and could hold the ball, and he did all the donkey work for me. He enjoyed playing as a second striker and the free role.

“And then there were guys like (Francis) Chandida, Musareka (Jenitala), Givemore Manuella, Eddie Mashiri and Elliot Matsika who created the chances from a central midfield role and out wide.

“We were a dangerous attacking force. I remember beating Highlanders 3-0 in that match at Barbourfields. James Matola scored the first, with a header, then Jenitala, and me the third.  We made a lot of money. The Bulawayo-based fans gave us wads of cash. And when the bus stopped in Gweru on our way back, we had Zim dollar bank notes being thrown onto the bus from outside.

“There was a guy from Mbare called Boss Major, who would bet that I would score in every match I played. Every time I scored, I would receive a cheque of $15 000 Zim dollars from him.”

In 2004, Mufema returned to Motor Action, but saw his form nose-dive. 

And then under Rahman Gumbo in 2005, at the expensively-assembled Mighty Bulls, he contributed to the 5-0 annihilation of Dynamos at Rufaro Stadium on the first day of the season.

“James Matola totally failed to contain me that day. I scored the fifth after Salimu Milanzi, Dabwitso Nkhoma, Musa Mguni and Edward Tembo. It was a star-studded team, Clemence Matawu, Njabulo and Brian Badza were also there.”

Mufema, despite being used as a substitute for most of the season, ended on 17 goals to virtually steal the golden boot award from Marufu.

“The other strikers were not scoring, and I started getting game time. Phillip Marufu was on song at Chapungu and everyone’s favourite for the golden boot.

“On the last day of the season, we beat Sundowns 5-0 at Callies and I scored four to take me to 17. Marufu was on 15 before the final round of games, and he also scored one to be on 16. He actually refused to take a penalty, thinking he had wrapped it up. I ended on 17, just one ahead of him. I couldn’t believe it when a reporter told me I was the winner. I was delighted, but felt for him (Marufu). I lost my mother that year and I dedicated it to her.”

That would mark his last heroics here, and after returning to Motor Action in 2008 and 2009, he went back to Gaborone in 2010, where he would suffer the series of misfortunes that have effectively ended the career of one of the most instinctive predators of our time.

Comments (1)

Shame young man,well you did your best during your days,now turn to God ,a miracle can return you back into the field of play,just go to church ,God is waiting with your miracle,your worries will be over

sinyoro - 13 January 2015

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